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Elizabethan notes culled from rubble

Eye on the Oscars: Song & Score

The German composing team of Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser has collaborated with director Roland Emmerich for the past 15 years, helping — aurally, at least — to destroy the world and herald the apocalypse in such vfx-heavy blockbusters as “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”

“So when he came to us about scoring ‘Anonymous,’ with its intriguing story about who’s the true author of all the classic Shakespeare plays, it was a fascinating challenge,” says Wander.

“First, there’s the whole setting and period, which gave us a great opportunity to research a lot of Renaissance English music. And then there are specific challenges, like the love scene between the Queen and Edward de Vere (the Earl of Oxford and the film’s purported real Bard) where there’s a sense that while they’re really in love, not all is right.”

Wander and Kloser, who say that the team’s method varies from project to project, began by discussing various approaches and possible instrumentation. “In this case, I went off and wrote most of it alone, and then Harald gave me feedback, and then we worked together on several pieces,” reports Wander.

Adds Kloser: “I’d contribute various themes and motifs, and we also try to write complete musical pieces before the film is cut.”

The finished score was recorded in Berlin with the Berlin Film Orchestra, and featured some unusual instruments — “a hurdy-gurdy, an old English instrument, and a lithophone, a sort of vibraphone made out of tuned and shaped stones,” explains Wander. “And these particular stones were found in Cumbria, England, over 200 years ago.” Notes Kloser, “it gave this very interesting color and flavor to the music.”

“Roland’s so trusting and supportive,” Wander adds. “We discuss a lot before we start writing, but then he gives us so much freedom. Other directors want to check on your progress every night, but Roland leaves you alone to just focus on the score.”

Eye on the Oscars: Song & Score
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